"areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters" – as defined by the Intergovernmental treaty ‘The Convention on Wetlands’.
Wetlands are often termed as ‘nature’s kidneys’ or ‘natural sink’ due to its characteristics of cleansing the environment and balancing the water retention of the land. They are vital links between land and water that provides “ecosystem services” such as freshwater supply, habitat for many species, natural beauty, biodiversity, flood control reserve, groundwater recharge, climate change mitigation etc.
This sensitive ecosystem is majorly dependent on hydrological conditions; thus, with the prevalent erratic rainfall, extreme drought, excessive ground water extraction, global warming, non-conservation of these ecosystems etc. many wetlands are at risk of degradation which poses grave danger to the eco-system.
Conserving, protecting and managing wetlands is a global challenge. An intergovernmental treaty called ‘The Convention on Wetlands’ was signed in 1971 to provide framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It is also called Ramsar Convention, named after the city Ramsar in Iran where it was signed. Wetlands of international importance are identified and given the status of Ramsar sites, these sites are recognized as of significant value not only for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole.
WWF-India had been working towards rejuvenating and conserving six wetlands across four states of India viz. Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
The interventions are carried out through engagement with Government, Civil Society organizations, riparian communities on preparing and implementing Wetland Management Action Plans; conducting wetland health and biodiversity assessments; capacity enhancement and behaviour change programmes on protecting wetlands and its biodiversity.